I know a lot of people, when you mention reading the Bible through, are concerned about a section or two. Commonly you will hear people mention Numbers or Leviticus as books they are not looking forward to reading; and I can understand why. They are books of laws, numbers, genealogies, and they tend to be repetitive. There’s only so many times you can read about the proper drink offering for a particular sin before you begin to wonder if the Israelites had comprehension issues. If I’m honest, Job is one of those books for me, and if I’m really honest I will tell you that I have never read Job all the way through. The beginning, sure and definitely the end. I love the end of Job where God steps in and describes in beautiful detail the wonders of his power and sovereignty. The issue for me comes in the middle, in the conversation between Job and his four friends. I don’t know if it is one of those “lost in translation” things. One thing you need to know about the middle of the book of Job is that it was written entirely as Hebrew poetry and I am sure that some of the wonder of that poetry has been lost in the movement from Hebrew to English. So it is entirely possible that some of what I’m missing I come by honestly, and I’m not a great student or fan of poetry even when I do understand it.
In reading through Job this time, I have learned a couple of things that are helping me understand a bit better what Job is all about, but I must admit that a full appreciation for the book eludes me. Allow me to share a couple of those insights to help you as you begin this journey through Job.
The first is this: none of the speakers in Job are right. One of the things that I have always been hung up on when reading Job is not knowing which speaker, Job or one of his four friends, were right. Then I realized (with the help of Warren Wiersbe and H. Ellison) that none of them are right, that is why God speaks at the end, to correct them all, although he speaks solely to Job. Their main issue is this: they are working from the wrong perspective. It was common, in Job’s time, for people to understand prosperity, wealth and wisdom as gifts from God to those who had done right in his sight. Conversely, it was understood that if someone suffered calamity, ruin, bankruptcy or great loss and pain, then they were obviously out of favour with God and under some sort of divine punishment. So Job’s friends, from different individual perspectives (which I will point out as we go) all try to convince Job that he has done something against God to cause his calamity. Job, of course, argues against this perspective, even though he lives with the same religious expectations.
From a broad point of view, then, Job is all about what happens when God challenges our religious assumptions and our “comfortable” beliefs about how God interacts with us. Essentially, God uses Job to teach us that he does not fit into our neat little boxes.
That leads me to the second thing that has helped me as I have read Job this time around, and this understanding is uncomfortable, but it fits in specifically with the reading today. God is sovereign. That in itself is not that uncomfortable, we talk about it in church, it is a fundamental part of our belief system.
But it is a part of our belief that we are unwilling to take to its full extent, and I can prove it by asking this question: who causes Job’s problems? If you like me, you will say Satan. The opening 2 chapters of Job clearly outline that it is Satan that brings calamity into the story, it is Satan that attacks Job. Let me ask another question: who first mentions Job by name? It’s in chapter 1 verse 8 if you need to find it. It is not Satan, it is God. And who provides Satan’s power and gives him permission to use that power in Job’s life? God, because God is sovereign, period. Nothing happens outside of his permission. That is uncomfortable and causes us to re-examine our thoughts about what it really means if God is sovereign. It certainly gives the words of the worship song “Blessed be Your Name” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLycgKxlgc0) a fresh perspective.
Am I saying that God orchestrates calamity in our lives…I’m not so sure; BUT if I believe that God is sovereign than I have to believe that everything past, present and future are under his direct control and only happen under his watchful eye. I realize that this is incredibly uncomfortable and even a bit faith shaking unless you also come to realize that the sovereignty means that God is always, completely and totally in control, that nothing that goes on in our lives shocks or surprises him and that the scriptures promise that God works even the evil things of this earth for good (Romans 8:28 & Genesis 50:20). There is incredible comfort in that. And as you finish reading Job, you may just find that the answer to Job’s predicament is entirely wrapped up in God’s sovereignty (hence the awesome four chapters the display God’s splendor and power for all to see).
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
- What is Satan up to on the earth?
- What essentially did Job say about the day of his birth in chapter 3?
- Where was Eliphaz from?
Saturday’s Reading: Job 6-9
If you wish to hear what else I have to say about this weeks’ readings, please join us at PEMC on Sunday at 10:30 am for worship.